NBA

NBA Betting: Why You Should Fade the Brooklyn Nets

Despite making a big splash in free agency, missing Kevin Durant for a year leaves the Nets fighting an up-hill battle to overcome the players they lost this summer.

It wasn't the Knicks, but Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving did still end up teaming up to head to New York this off-season. They both signed with the Brooklyn Nets in a summer that has seen the makeup of the league shake-up as much as we've ever seen in such a short stretch.

The Nets, already well into a rebuild after looking like they doomed their future going all-in on Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce a few years ago, turned in a promising season last year, winning 42 games and earning the 6 Seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Adding a couple of premier offensive players (even if KD doesn't suit up at all this season) seems like an obvious step forward, but they didn't simply sign this new duo on top of last year's 42-win team.

The list of 2019 Nets that are no longer with the squad is a long one. D'Angelo Russell, Shabazz Napier and Treveon Graham were shipped off to Golden State. DeMarre Carroll is now a Spur. Jared Dudley is a Laker. Ed Davis is in Utah. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Allen Crabbe stayed in the East, and are now with the Toronto Raptors and Atlanta Hawks, respectively.

Helping replace this group, it hasn't just been Kyrie and Durant added to Brooklyn's roster though. Taurean Prince came over in a trade from Atlanta, and the Nets also added DeAndre Jordan, Garrett Temple and Wilson Chandler.

The New Additions

The obvious headliner among the new faces in Brooklyn is Kevin Durant, but despite the team keeping mum about his status, it's hard to imagine him playing at all in the 2019-2020 season after rupturing his Achilles in June. The most recent NBA star we saw go through that injury was DeMarcus Cousins, who sat for just shy of a full calendar year, from January 26, 2018, to January 18, 2019. With this piece just focusing on the outlook for the upcoming season, we can pretty safely disregard Durant.

The other big piece, then, is Kyrie Irving. There's no denying Irving's offensive prowess, as one of only four guards to average at least 23 points and 5 assists per game in each of the last three seasons. Even in something of a down year in the 2018-19 season, He finished 14th in the NBA in Offensive Win Shares with 6.2, while 11 of the players ranked above him did so while playing more minutes than his 2214.

It's not all sunshine with Irving though. Saying nothing of the rumors of off-court and team-chemistry issues that seem to follow him from team to team, he's not exactly a stout defender. The Boston Celtics gave up 1.9 points per 100 possessions more with Irving on the floor than off last season, as well as 4.0 more with him on in his first year in town. That's not a Boston-specific trend either, as his final season with the Cleveland Cavaliers saw the team post a 111.8 Defensive Rating with Irving on but a 108.6 with Irving off.

His offense has made up for that though, as his teams' Net Rating has been at least 2.8 points better with him on the floor than off over each of the last three years.

We don't see such a rosy trend for DeAndre Jordan, though. Ignoring his brief tenure with the tanking Knicks (who posted a -19.9 Net Rating in the 493 minutes Jordan played for them), things still don't look great. There was a +0.7-point difference with him on the floor for the Dallas Mavericks, but in the 2017-18, season we saw a -6.9-point difference for the Clippers.

He's 30 years old with nearly 25,000 NBA minutes under his belt, and we could be seeing some signs of decline in his game as well. His Player Efficiency Rating (PER) has fallen every year since his lone All-Star appearance in the 2016-17 season, and last year he posted his second-worst total rebound rate (23.5%) of the last five years. His style of play is also becoming increasingly anachronistic in today's NBA.

Last season 81.4% of his field goal attempts came within three feet of the basket, which was actually his lowest percentage since 2012. His effective field goal percentage dipped to .641 (also his lowest in that time), and while he averaged over 2 assists per game (2.3) for the first time in his career, he also averaged over 2 turnovers per game (2.2) for the first time, with 153 turnovers and 156 assists on the year.

We've been waiting on a Taurean Prince breakout for three years now, but each of the last two seasons have seen the Hawks post a Net Rating 3 points worse with Prince on the floor than off, and he's never posted a Player Efficiency Rating higher than 12.8.

Garrett Temple had a positive impact with the Clippers last year, as their Net Rating jumping by 1.4 with him on the court.

This isn't a bad group of players, but without Durant factored in, it's also not really one to get excited about. Kyrie always has the potential to carry a team on the offensive end, but Jordan and Prince don't offer a ton of promise (especially if Jordan cuts into the minutes available for Jarrett Allen), while Temple is a valuable piece but no more than a role player.

The Void to Fill

The sheer number of players the Nets lost isn't necessarily a concern on its own, but a lot of these players were valuable contributors to last year's playoff squad. Looking at their 12 players that generated the most Win Shares, only five of them are returning.

Player 2018-19 Win Shares Returning
Jarrett Allen 7.6 Yes
Ed Davis 5.7 No
Joe Harris 5.5 Yes
D'Angelo Russell 5.0 No
Spencer Dinwiddie 4.8 Yes
DeMarre Carroll 3.1 No
Shabazz Napier 2.0 No
Jared Dudley 1.8 No
Caris LeVert 1.7 Yes
Rodions Kurucs 1.6 Yes
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson 1.2 No
Allen Crabbe 0.8 No

Less impactful, but their 13th- and 14th-ranked players in that stat are also gone, in Treveon Graham and Kenneth Faried.

The trend is even more worrying looking at other numbers as well. The Nets had 13 players on the floor for at least 500 minutes last season, and eight of them had a positive on/off split for Net Rating. Only one of those eight (Caris LeVert) is back this year.

PlayerNet Rating OnNet Rating OffDifferenceReturning
Ed Davis+4.2-2.5+6.7No
DeMarre Carroll+2.0-1.7+3.7No
Treveon Graham+2.1-0.6+2.7No
Jared Dudley+1.5-0.8+2.3No
Shabazz Napier+1.0-0.5+1.5No
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson+0.4-0.4+0.8No
D'Angelo Russell+0.1-0.6+0.7No
Caris LeVert+0.1-0.2+0.3Yes
Rodions Kurucs-0.9+0.2-1.1Yes
Allen Crabbe-1.4+0.3-1.7No
Joe Harris-1.8+2.2-4.0Yes
Jarrett Allen-2.5+2.5-5.0Yes
Spencer Dinwiddie-3.0+2.5-5.5Yes

The Nets basically shed the entire core that carried them into last year's playoff berth in a bid to land their superstars of the future. This could still very well prove to be a terrific move if Kevin Durant returns to near the same level he played at pre-injury, but it raises some serious short-term concerns for the 2019-20 season.

2019-20 Outlook

Oddsmakers are accounting for this being an upgraded team. After winning 42 games last season, FanDuel Sportsbook has their win total over/under set at 47.5, with the over getting -120 odds and the under getting +100.

At +1000, they are also implied as the fourth-most likely team to win the Eastern Conference, while also getting the third-best odds (+2300) in the East to win the NBA Championship.

Even without taking into account the chemistry issues of bringing together a new core that hasn't played together before (one of whom doesn't have a great reputation on the chemistry front), this team isn't even necessarily a personnel upgrade over last year's.

Kyrie Irving is an upgrade over D'Angelo Russell at the top of the heap, but once we get into their role players, there were a ton of valuable contributors last season whose minutes will have to be picked up by either the newcomers (who as we looked at aren't an overly exciting group) or by incumbents, who by and large were less effective last season than the newly-departed players were.

42 wins last year was right in line with what we'd expect based on the way the Nets played (tied for 14th-most in the NBA, while their -0.1 Net Rating ranked 15th), so to project a jump of at least 6 wins you really have to project this off-season's moves to be a significant upgrade even before Durant returns.

That doesn't look to be the case, which makes the +100 odds on that under an absolute steal, while also possibly creating some nice betting value for some other top teams in the East to win the conference.